When I turned forty, my office staff gave my daughters and me annual Passes to Disneyland and told me that I needed to become a kid again.
Visiting the park any chance we could get, I learned to love California Adventure since we experienced it for the first time together. One of the most memorable visits was one that my thirteen year-old daughter Taryn will never forget. Neither will I.
I learned that one of the best attractions was Grizzly Splash, as Taryn called it, which isn’t really a ride at all. It’s merely an observation deck at the very bottom of the last drop of the Grizzly River Run (where the brochure convinces you that the wetter, the better). After we had waited nearly an hour to go on the ride, which wasn’t all that exciting but did build one’s hopes of getting wet, we enjoyed the observation deck much, much more than the ride itself.
This is a place where people can watch the rafts drop and get completely drenched by the splash. I mean soaked to the bone. The first time a raft came down, a wall of water came over us and nearly knocked me over. It took my breath away and judging by the scream of laughter from my daughters, I must have looked pretty shocked.
Taryn must have stood in that spot for nearly 30 minutes, squealing with exuberant laughter, acting each time she was splashed as if it were the first. Dripping wet, clothes dragging the ground, she then walked through the park looking like the Swamp Thing and told everyone she saw all about “Grizzly Splash.”
She convinced dozens of people that day to try it. After all, she concluded, There’s more than just the ride, there’s the splash too!
One lady told me that I was lucky. You’ve got a real fun one there.
Boy, didn’t I know it!
When Taryn gave me a sopping-wet bear hug to thank me for taking her there, I could feel her pounding heart beat on my stomach. I laughed at her pure delight and thought to myself, as I often do when she gets so excited, how her heart must really be getting a workout.
When she had open-heart surgery as a little girl I wondered if she would ever really get to enjoy life like other kids.
While her surgery was a very traumatic experience, she has few memories of it and still likes to show off a bit of her scar and tell people that she has a special heart.
I believe she does.
Her heart is special not because it was broken and the surgeon fixed it, but because God made it special. He made it pure. She used to sing a song in kindergarten, “Create in me a clean heart Oh God, that I might serve you.”
He did. She does.
She always seems to have so much joy, seeing the best in people, appreciating the little things (the splashes as well as the rides), and always saying thank you. Yes, she has a heart condition. And I hope to have it too someday.
As I reflect on that day at Disneyland, I distinctly remember wanting to rush through all the rides so we could hurry up and go home. But when Taryn’s appreciation for the splash caused me to choose a different path we stayed until the park closed. After the girls had gone to bed, I recorded the day in my journal.
Taryn discovered how silly it is to stand in line for an hour when the whole point is to get wet and then walk through the park with people pointing, laughing, and asking, ‘what ride did you go on!?’ Taryn enjoys the simple things like being wet with all her clothes on. At thirteen, she had discovered one of the greatest secrets in life:
It’s not the ride, it’s the splash!